We Have a Problem

I have a problem with my writing. Namely, the 20,000 word threshold. My problem isn’t getting there. It’s wanting to keep writing once I do.

When I started writing a historical novella about three weeks ago, I was so excited about it. Why had I ever written a contemporary? Clearly I was born to write historicals! I love my characters! I love the conflict between them! I had learned so much from the first manuscript so I wasn’t making the same mistakes!

Then, about a week ago, I stated approaching 20,000 words and my enthusiasm just leeched out. I knew what I needed to do next. I just couldn’t get myself to do it. The entire manuscript began to feel blah.

So I wrote the scene that I had had in my head for about a month. Then I wrote the chapter that I needed to set it up. Then I started plotting. And suddenly … it’s so easy to write a contemporary! You don’t have to stop to do research! It’s so much easier to write fresh, sexy dialogue when you’re not worried about anachronism! I was born to write contemporaries!

The next thing I knew, I had 10,000 words.

But I’m worried. I’m worried that I’m going to hit a wall where I know what comes next and I can’t get myself to write it. I’m worried that I’m a dilettantish writer. That I only like the beginnings of things.

What do you find the most difficult part about writing? The beginning? The middle? The end? How do you get through it?

Why Write Genre Fiction, Part 1

A piece for the Huffington Post by Anne Brown Walker about smart women reading (and writing) romance has been getting some play on the interwebs. I’ve been reading romance for 18 months and writing it for half that time. I’m also a “smart” woman: a PhD student, a former professional, etc., so I thought I’d add my thoughts.

In the poem “Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent’s Narrow Room,” William Wordsworth describes how nuns find happiness, freedom even, within the confines of the convent. Yes, their lives are routine but within the rules and regulations, the nuns are able to be creative and find their bliss.

Now, a former poetry professor of mine used to say that at some level every poem is about the act of its own creation. In other words, if you aren’t sure what a poem is about, pretend that it’s about the process of the poet writing it. You’d be amazed at what smart stuff you come up with.

I don’t even know that you need that sort of interpretive jijitsu with “Nuns Fret Not,” because Wordsworth gets a little meta in the middle:

In truth the prison, into which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, ’twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet’s scanty plot of ground;
Some writers might complain that the sonnet form is a prison with too little to offer writers but Wordsworth finds the binds of the form sufficient ground for his work as a writer.
The poem concludes,
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.
Look, I have a lot more to say about the romance genre and why I like it. But for the moment, I want to start with this: when I’m teaching writing, I often use an exercise where I give students a list of words and instruct them to write a poem using only those words. The poetry they write is much better than if I instructed them to write a poem but gave no constraints. When you’re focusing on the rules, some part of you gets freed up. That’s why I read and write romance.

Word Count Check In

The novella has 20,053 words. It’s gotten to a very sad place and it distresses me. But I love my characters and I need them to achieve happily ever after.

I also started writing the novel of the sticky scene, and it has 3,301 words. And I absolutely love it. It’s such frisky fun and I’m resisting my normal impulse to get the hero/heroine together too quickly. I don’t think I can stand to break these two up, so it’s more of the will they/won’t they plot. We’ll see how it goes.

Plus, I finished my dissertation introduction and I worked on revisions on dissertation chapters and Together is Enough. It was a very successful writing week.


Breaking Up is Hard to Do

One of the most difficult things for me as a romance reader and writer is that the hero and the heroine spend most of their time not together. Yes, I know that books need conflict otherwise, where would the fun be? If the central characters realized they were perfect for one another on page 1 and faced absolutely no opposition or division, there’s no way to get to page 250 without the book being deadly dull. But when you love your characters deeply and want them to be together, it’s hard to deal with the plot’s need for separation.

Within the master romance plots, I feel like there are two basic arcs. Either the hero and heroine get together early in the book but break-up/are separated/face some sort of external conflict/etc. or they resist getting together until the end of the book.

I didn’t realize it until now, but my recently completed manuscript, my current work-in-progress, and at least 2 of the books that I have sketched out in my head are the former. One of these days, I need to write the latter, if only for variety’s sake.

I’m up to 20,000 words on the novella, which I think is between half-way and two-thirds of the way through the manuscript. But now, having achieved what I find to be an emotionally satisfying reunion of former lovers, I’ve had to separate them. I know that it’s necessary and that the separation will help them work through their final emotional issue and truly reach happily ever after. But it honestly makes me sad to write. It makes me want to start working on another story where I can write the more fun “will we or won’t we,” thrill of the chase-type stuff.

How do you deal with conflict and separation in your writing? Do you love the angst? Do you run away screaming in horror?

Word Count Check-In

My novella’s up to 14,231 words and I hope to write this evening. I only penned 5 dissertation pages this week, but I worked fairly extensively on revisions for Together is Enough, which I hadn’t planned for. I’m going to go ahead and call that a successful writing week.

Next week will be all about the dissertation, but I’d like to get the novella over 20,000 words.

I’ll get a full review up at some point in the future, but I wanted to draw the attention of my readers to Kimberly Truesdale’s new novel, My Dear Sophy, a beautifully realized prequel to Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I was fortunate enough to read an early draft and I can assure you that it’s delightful and squee-worthy. You should just go buy it now.

Happy writing!

Soundtrack for Writing

I was working on revisions last night and it wasn’t going well. In part, I’m not used to organizing my utterly unstructured scenes into something like the W plot. But eventually, I determined that it was also that I had A Capitol Fourth on the background. It was the wrong music. It was not the manuscript’s soundtrack. I couldn’t think my story to John Philip Sousa.

Do you use music for writing? Do you have a certain genre that inspires you? Do you have songs for certain characters or types of scenes?

For your listening pleasure, I’ve embedded the key songs that I associate with Together Is Enough after the break.

Continue reading “Soundtrack for Writing”

Final, Final, Final

I’m shocked and astonished and overwhelmed to share with you that my contemporary, Together is Enough, is a 2012 Golden Claddagh finalist! You can read about the entire thing here if you want.

I couldn’t have been more surprised to get the email. But I’ve discovered that this is where the real work begins. My first-round judges gave such generous, insightful, and constructive comments. They taught me so much about this manuscript and the writing process in general. I feel like a lifetime of reading fiction was surprisingly poor preparation for writing it. I have so much to learn that it’s humbling.

Now I’m deep in revisions to resubmit for the final round. I’m focusing on the three P’s: pacing, plot, and passive writing.

When we get bad feedback or when we’re rejected, we tell ourselves that it’s only one person’s opinion, that we learn from critique (whether the comments are warranted or not), and that at some level, we write not for accolades or appreciation but because there are things within us that just need to be expressed. If that commentary is true when we do poorly, it’s also true when we do well.

I couldn’t be more excited to have some positive feedback (tempered with much, much helpful criticism), but more than that, I know that I have a long way to go.